Last Updated on 10th March 2019 by Sophie Nadeau
Just one look at the archway of books signalling the entryway to Le Bal des Ardents and it’s clear to see that this store is something special. Set along the ancient Rue Neuve, in the very heart of the 1st arrondissement of Lyon, within the Presqu’Île area of the city, Le Bal des Ardents is probably the most beautiful bookshop in all of Lyon…
Le Bal des Ardents: Is This the Prettiest Bookshop in Lyon?
Culinary Lyon is best-known for its silk trading past and foodie scene. But that’s not all this French city has to offer. Instead, there’s one of the most beautiful basilicas in France to admire (Notre Dame de Fourvière), several particularly well-preserved Roman theatres and a maze of cobbled lanes and streets filled with brasseries and churches.
The Roman city of Lyon is also set across many levels, meaning a myriad of stairways, plenty of unbeatable viewpoints, and all of the cobbled lanes you could ever wish for. Rue Neuve is one such street that dates all the way back to the 13th-century, while the Bal des Ardents was founded by Francis Chapuit-Dezerville in 2003.
Wander in and you’ll soon see that the Lyon bookstore isn’t like any mainstream shops. Instead of famous authors and titles, there are plenty of independent publishers and little-known writers represented there. For those who are curious, the name ‘Le Bal des Ardents’ derives from a book by Pierre Bettencourt of the same name. Bettencourt was born in Saint-Maurice-d’Ételan in 1917 and is best-known for being an installation artist, but who was also a poet and author.
The name is not to be confused with the very original Bal des Ardents (or Bal des Sauvages as it is also known) which was a masquerade ball held in Paris during the 14th-century. The year was 1393 and Charles VI was on the throne. Tragically, this event ended when a fire broke out during the masquerade ball, resulting in the deaths of four of the six dancers.
How to visit Le Bal des Ardents Bookshop
Open from Monday through to Saturday, it’s best to visit the bookstore earlier in the day if possible as the shop can get pretty busy and it can end up being rather hard to take that ‘must-have’ photo in front of the archway of books if you arrive later on in the day.
Once inside, you’ll soon discover a series of assorted rooms. While the majority are all wood-panelling, with books stacked from floor to ceiling, at the very back there’s a room dedicated entirely to graphic novels and the like. Throughout the year, the bookshop organises a series of events including debates, readings, and author meets.
Next door, you’ll soon discover My Petite Factory, a speciality coffee house and vegan bar that’s easily one of the best cafés in Lyon. Head to the end of the street in the direction of the basilica, turn left, and you’ll spy the flower shop (Presqu’île Fleurs) on the back wall of Eglise Saint-Nizier, a church which is named for a 6th-century bishop of the city.